College Basketball Insider

Why Kentucky starts No. 1: Nobody else has UK's roster and Calipari

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Think John Calipari's sorry to see so many talented players leaving UK? Think again. (Getty Images)  
Think John Calipari's sorry to see so many talented players leaving UK? Think again. (Getty Images)  

I realize Kentucky lost its top six players. And that no school has ever won back-to-back titles with such roster turnover. And that Indiana is really talented. And Louisville is so deep that multiple Cardinals have "decided" to transfer to free up scholarships for more talented prospects.

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I'd still vote Kentucky No. 1 in the preseason.

Why?

Because talent typically triumphs over all in college basketball.

You know it. I know it. Even Jeff Goodman knows it. And despite the departures of Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller, nobody can match UK's roster strictly in terms of talent.

I submit DraftExpress.com as Exhibit 1.

That reputable site, run by Jonathan Givony, has at the moment four Wildcats projected among the top 23 picks of the 2013 NBA Draft, while there aren't even two Cardinals or two Hoosiers listed among the top 30. Yes, Indiana's Cody Zeller is projected third. And Louisville's Wayne Blackshear is projected 25th. But Kentucky has Nerlens Noel projected first, Alex Poythress at seventh, Archie Goodwin ninth and Ryan Harrow 23rd. And though it's impossible on some level to predict such things more than a year in advance, the projections are the projections, and the projection at DraftExpress.com makes it clear Kentucky has more future NBA picks than any other school.

Kentucky Wildcats
Last season: 38-2 (won national title)
Lost: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, Eloy Vargas
Return: Kyle Wiltjer, Jon Hood
Notable newcomers: Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley, Ryan Harrow (N.C. State), Julius Mays (Wright State)

That's good enough for me.

And it should be good enough for you.

Because history suggests riding with the team with the most NBA talent is the safest bet you can make. The 2005 North Carolina Tar Heels, 2007 Florida Gators, 2008 Kansas Jayhawks, 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels and 2012 Kentucky Wildcats are but a few examples of superior talent prevailing in a sport with more than 340 schools competing for the same national championship, and this version of Kentucky will be similarly gifted.

Sure, the Wildcats will again be young.

That's the most obvious reason to bet against them.

But it should be noted their perennial inexperience hasn't prevented them from being elite in any of John Calipari's three seasons at Kentucky.

Also Calipari, with all his success on and off the court, now has a trump card to play when any of his young phenoms step out of line. If Noel complains about a lack of shots, Calipari can explain that Davis was fourth on his team in field goal attempts, and that he still won National Player of the Year honors and solidified himself as the consensus top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. So be quiet and play defense. If Poythress has a similar complaint, Calipari can say Kidd-Gilchrist was fifth on his team in field goal attempts and still established himself as a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. So shut up and guard somebody. And if Harrow ever questions anything, Calipari can emphasize that Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Teague all made it to the NBA after just one year of running his offense. In other words, Calipari knows what he's talking about. So shut up and play fast without rushing and run things as instructed.

Simply put, Calipari has reached the point where he can't be questioned by players.

He's made four Final Fours at three different schools.

He gets starters and reserves drafted.

He has a national championship.

And the guess here is that his second title is on the way.

Which team has the edge?
 
Kentucky

Louisville

Indiana
Point guard Ryan Harrow Peyton Siva Yogi Ferrell
Shooting guard Archie Goodwin Wayne Blackshear Jordan Hulls
Small forward Alex Poythress Luke Hancock Will Sheehey
Power forward Kyle Wiljter Chane Behanan Christian Watford
Center Nerlens Noel Gorgui Dieng Cody Zeller
Bench Julius Mays
Jon Hood
Willie Cauley
Russ Smith
Kevin Ware
Montrezl Harrell
Victor Oladipo
Maurice Creek
Hanner Perea
Jeremy Hollowell
Coaching John Calipari Rick Pitino Tom Crean
Note: Bold indicates team with edge as chosen by Jeff Goodman

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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